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Longfellow, "rain in summer"
Posted by: jialuo (
Date: February 19, 2004 03:00PM

can anyone suggest some essays about this poem?

Re: Longfellow, "rain in summer"
Posted by: Marian-NYC (
Date: February 19, 2004 03:44PM

If you mean essays ABOUT this poem, I'm afraid you'll have to look into longer works on his poetry for passages about this particular poem.

But I think you mean that you want us to suggest some TOPICS, so let's have a look at the poem, then meet me at the end:


Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: RAIN IN SUMMER

How beautiful is the rain!
After the dust and heat,
In the broad and fiery street,
In the narrow lane,
How beautiful is the rain!

How it clatters along the roofs,
Like the tramp of hoofs
How it gushes and struggles out
From the throat of the overflowing spout!

Across the window-pane
It pours and pours;
And swift and wide,
With a muddy tide,
Like a river down the gutter roars
The rain, the welcome rain!

The sick man from his chamber looks
At the twisted brooks;
He can feel the cool
Breath of each little pool;
His fevered brain
Grows calm again,
And he breathes a blessing on the rain.

From the neighboring school
Come the boys,
With more than their wonted noise
And commotion;
And down the wet streets
Sail their mimic fleets,
Till the treacherous pool
Ingulfs them in its whirling
And turbulent ocean.

In the country, on every side,
Where far and wide,
Like a leopard's tawny and spotted hide,
Stretches the plain,
To the dry grass and the drier grain
How welcome is the rain!

In the furrowed land
The toilsome and patient oxen stand;
Lifting the yoke encumbered head,
With their dilated nostrils spread,
They silently inhale
The clover-scented gale,
And the vapors that arise
From the well-watered and smoking soil.
For this rest in the furrow after toil
Their large and lustrous eyes
Seem to thank the Lord,
More than man's spoken word.

Near at hand,
From under the sheltering trees,
The farmer sees
His pastures, and his fields of grain,
As they bend their tops
To the numberless beating drops
Of the incessant rain.
He counts it as no sin
That he sees therein
Only his own thrift and gain.

These, and far more than these,
The Poet sees!
He can behold
Aquarius old
Walking the fenceless fields of air;
And from each ample fold
Of the clouds about him rolled
Scattering everywhere
The showery rain,
As the farmer scatters his grain.

He can behold
Things manifold
That have not yet been wholly told,--
Have not been wholly sung nor said.
For his thought, that never stops,
Follows the water-drops
Down to the graves of the dead,
Down through chasms and gulfs profound,
To the dreary fountain-head
Of lakes and rivers under ground;
And sees them, when the rain is done,
On the bridge of colors seven
Climbing up once more to heaven,
Opposite the setting sun.

Thus the Seer,
With vision clear,
Sees forms appear and disappear,
In the perpetual round of strange,
Mysterious change
From birth to death, from death to birth,
From earth to heaven, from heaven to earth;
Till glimpses more sublime
Of things, unseen before,
Unto his wondering eyes reveal
The Universe, as an immeasurable wheel
Turning forevermore
In the rapid and rushing river of Time.


Well, the STRUCTURE is interesting enough to be a topic. What is conveyed by the fact that no two stanzas have the same metric or rhyme structure? What do the structures themselves convey? How does the length and rhyme scheme of succeeding stanzas correspond to what is being said in the poem?

To address that, of course, you have to decide WHAT (in your opinion) IS BEING SAID. Break that down into two questions: What is being said about RAIN? What is being said, by means of a poem on rain, about LIFE, THE UNIVERSE, AND EVERYTHING?

Who is THE POET, who is THE SEER, are they same/different?

"Muddy ... overflowing ... treacherous" - these are not happy words. Why are they included in a poem about how wonderful rain is?

And on a different tack: Read ECCLESIASTES in the Bible, especially the passages about rain, rivers, oceans ... compare and contrast.

(Hint: If you're reading it on line, use a site that puts the entire book -- 12 chapters -- on one page, so you can search for "river" and "rain" without clicking into 12 separate pages. There is one such at:
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Another way to come up with a topic is: Read the poem to someone who is NOT very much a student of poetry. (Not, for example, an English major.) Ask them to flag anything they don't "get." Then write an essay about that.

Good luck!

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